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Thursday, December 16, 2004
Ditka becomes minority owner of Rush

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Mike Ditka became a minority owner of the Chicago Rush of Arena Football on Thursday.

The Chicago icon joins the likes of fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway (Colorado) and music stars Jon Bon Jovi (Philadelphia) and Tim McGraw (Nashville) as a team owner in the indoor league.

"I love Arena Football and am excited to become an owner of the Rush," Ditka said "I have been watching as the league has turned into the fastest-growing sport in the country. Its strong ownership group and national TV contract with NBC were big influences on my decision to become involved.

"As for the Rush, over the past four years this team has developed into one of the premier franchises in the AFL, and my goal is to help the team continue to prosper both on and off the field."

This is the first time he's been part owner of a pro football team.

Currently an ESPN analyst on Sunday NFL Countdown , Ditka began his NFL career in 1961 with the Bears as a first-round draft pick. Ditka spent six seasons with the Bears and was the 1961 Offensive Rookie of the Year. He played for the 1963 NFL championship team.

A five-time Pro Bowl player, he also played for Philadelphia and Dallas, retired from playing after the 1972 season and, in 1988, became the first tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He was hired as Bears coach in 1982 and led the team to the 1985 NFL title, when he was voted Coach of the Year. He won that award again in 1988.

Ditka also coached the New Orleans Saints from 1997-99.

"What a perfect match, the man known as Iron Mike joining forces with the league known for Ironman football," said AFL commissioner David Baker.

The Rush begins its fifth season in January.